Let this serve as a warning to the guys on The Jersey Shore who appear to spend 95 percent of their waking hours trying to win points with their friends through coitus with women who achieve a certain beauty standard: Researchers at University of Texas-Austin have discovered that people, especially men, who have sex for status report less sexual satisfaction than those who do it to express affection.
File this one in my favorite category of science stories, under "No Duh." Not that I resent that there's actual research out there that provides evidence for what should be a common sense assertion that people have better sex under conditions where they can throw themselves into the moment, and where they're likelier to have a partner who knows what works for them. After all, we live in a sexist society where many observable realities about sex and gender are cast aside in favor of myths about horny but heartless dudes, and asexual, feeble-minded, romance-addicted women. Witness the recent dust-up over Stephen Fry asserting that women don't like sex , an assertion he backed up by equating "liking sex" with "rutting in a semi-public space with strangers if you have a few minutes between dinner and meeting some friends for drinks." To prove you really like sex, ladies, you'll have to show Stephen Fry that you'll take on that extremely high chance of getting gang-raped to achieve his narrow definition of acceptable sexual expression.
Fry will be sad to learn, even after his nonapologetic apology , that the UT researchers actually found the correlation between sexual satisfaction and affection expression to be higher with men than women, probably because women are more likely to use sex to express the sort of relationship-maintenance emotions of gratitude and apologies. Members of both genders didn't achieve a lot of sexual satisfaction by having sex to try and prove something to themselves or their friends. Most unsurprisingly, people who are using sex as trade for resources--a group that has to encompass everyone from actual sex workers to housewives trying to relieve some tension before asking for money--didn't particularly find that sex satisfying, either.
Detail of Francesco del Cossa's "The Triumph of Venus" from Wikimedia Commons.